Are the Five Love Languages helpful? Yes, say researchers, but not the way people think

“the focus on finding a partner’s primary love language can be too restrictive …. ‘all of the behaviors Chapman identified are important.’” - RNS


Ever since I started learning about this idea back in the 1990s as a newlywed, I've been nervous about "five love languages." It seemed to be a way that partners could "mail it in", saying in effect "well I know that my wife's primary language is gifts, so here we go...", and never get to know the real person beneath. It can also function as something of an extortion racket, "Oh, I love gifts, and the fact that we're hopelessly over budget does not override this!".

Maybe try "getting to know each other" instead?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Here is the concluding interview of the article that seems to be a summary of the article:

After 17 years of marriage, Frugé had some advice for those using the five love languages. Remember that people need all kinds of love, not just one kind. Pay attention to them — rather than running to a book for all the answers.

But Chapman and others in the article make it clear that this is not the intention of the book. So the simmary is actually a statement of misunderstanding. A pretty worthless article, I'd say.

I like what Bert said:

Maybe try "getting to know each other" instead?

After nearly 18 years, I have found this to be an exciting and continuing adventure. My wife's favorite color has changed over those years. Her preferred foods have changed. So many things have changed, but it is fun learning those changes because it means I have to spend time with her to learn. Has her love language changed? I'm sure it changes from day to day and even one hour to the next, but I am learning to pick up on the clues she leaves to figure it out. Sometimes I just need to ask her. It is so fun though because I get to court the woman of my dreams every day. Admittedly though there have been those days when I wondered what I had gotten myself into, but we did not give up on understanding each other and came through it stronger. In other words, even our disagreements have helped us to better understand each other and to draw closer.

Jesus came to this earth filled with truth and grace. I have found that as we have told each other the truth and have shown grace we have grown closer. I need to show my wife grace when she tells me some hard truths about myself even if I think she is being harsh. I also need to show grace toward her even when I think that the truth is that she has some shortcomings. Further when I address those shortcomings, I need to do so with grace. Correction and criticism need to be given and received with grace as we strive to better understand each other. When that happens, the marriage thrives.

Bert: Maybe try "getting to know each other" instead?

I think that is exactly what the love languages are about. The basic concept is so good.

I have a few issues with it:

I think there's more than 5.

People might speak more than one or two.

But the basic theory as I understand it is this. There are multiple ways to show love. Different people see different things as loving. For instance, I know a man whose love language is words of affirmation. I know that if I poke fun at him by pointing out a mistake or something, he will be very upset. He doesn't find it funny. Little to no affability. But he loves a compliment. Love it. His wife seems to know this and she pours it on. "You are doing such a good job driving. etc. etc."

Now me, that's not me. I find words of affirmation weird. When my wife does what she does, I look at her like, what? Why would you even bother complimenting my driving??

Now, for us, acts of service is one of my wife's love languages. (But it's not mine.) When I do something like make dinner and clean up, she really likes it. Which honestly, after 30-something years, still catches me off guard. Why would you think of this a loving? I could hire anyone to do that. They're not loving me - they're doing dishes.

I think the designation of "languages" is kinda genius. If I hear some Thai words, I'll say, "What did he tell her?" (Has no meaning to me.) But to a Thai speaker, he just said he loves her for the first time. I actually found an article once about cross-cultural lovers expressing love in their native language instead of the language of their partner. Each partner actually said the expression was more genuinely felt (whether speaking or hearing) when it was expressed in their native language.

If my wife deliberately gives me words of affirmation as an attempt to show love, I actually have to realize she's trying to be loving and . It's like I have to translate and deliberately appreciate it.